Eminem – Encore

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Part I: The Album

Okay people. I’m going to say this once. Stop hating on Encore. Sure, this album (along with Relapse) sees Eminem at the peak of his drug addiction. But I think we can all agree that when he got clean, he got boring. This album is just downright weird, and that’s what makes it so awesome. It’s also one of his most musical albums—apparently after testing out his chops on Halie’s Song, he decided he could sing after all. The only valid complaint about this album is that it is responsible for the birth of the accent. If you’re an Eminem fan, you know exactly what accent I’m talking about.

Part II: The Music

Curtains Up: So the album’s got a bit of a concept, even if that concept only really figures into a handful of tracks. Supposedly, Eminem is performing a live show. Insert obligatory Sgt. Pepper’s reference here. So we literally begin with Eminem getting ready to walk on stage while the fans are chanting his name. RATING: 1/3

Evil Deeds: Picking up where we left off, the beginning of the song is accompanied by a screaming crowd and squeaking ropes as the curtain is pulled up. Right off the bat, Eminem comes out swinging with his melodic hooks on this Dr. Dre–produced track. We also get a taste of his unorthodox delivery on this album—during his first verse, Eminem repeats the ends of his lines over and over as if there were delay on his vocals. Eminem uses his favourite technique here of singing a melody in two different octaves at once to hide any inadequacies in his vocals, and it works quite well. Had this album come out a few years later, it would’ve been littered with autotune. Then again, maybe not; as far as I know, Eminem has yet to use autotune on any of his songs to date. I’ve also neglected to mention that this is one of the stronger tracks lyrically on the album, with those dark, autobiographical lyrics Eminem is known for best. RATING: 6/10

Never Enough: Another Dre track, and this one’s a bit more of a banger. Here, Eminem opines the fact that no matter how successful he is, he’s never really satisfied. It’s not a self-pitying track though; it’s all about the fact that he keeps on striving to reach new highs. The song’s highlight is the hook, sung by Nate Dogg. I mean, did a Nate Dogg hook ever not make a song awesome? There’s also a pretty decent 50 Cent guest verse. 50’s still in his prime here, so he actual delivers in terms of his lyrics and flow. RATING: 5.5/10

Yellow Brick Road: The first Eminem-produced track (with the help of Luis Resto, as is the case throughout the album) on the album, and it’s… psychedelic? Is that the best way to describe this track? Oddly, Eminem raps rather than sings the hook on this one. This song isn’t as excessively weird as it sounds—once again, the lyrics are autobiographical. Eminem sings about first meeting fellow D-12 member Proof, for example. Anyway, as much of an oddity as this song is, it never really stood out much to me. RATING: 6/10

Like Toy Soldiers: This is perhaps one of Eminem’s best songs (and one of his best beats!). Marching drums lay the foundation for this sombre reflection on the negative consequences of hip hop beefs (Eminem brings up his feuds with Benzino and his involvement in 50 Cent’s feud with Ja Rule). The song is full of Eminem’s trademark complex rhyme schemes, and his vocal delivery really helps him come across as a war-weary soldier. Sadly, this song will probably be best remembered for its music video, which hauntingly foreshadowed the death of Proof, who was shot and killed two years after the release of the album. RATING: 9/10

Mosh: Ah, this song. This is an anti–George Bush song. But unlike, say, Lily Allen’s Fuck You, this song is very up-front about its subject matter (he literally says “Fuck Bush”). This song also seems to continue the militaristic theme of the previous one, only this song is more geared towards revolution and political upheaval. The beat is one of Dre’s lazier efforts on the album. This was a really odd choice for a song to release as a single, and it really doesn’t work that well outside of its political context. RATING: 2/10

Puke: Eminem first graced us with his pop singing voice on the incredible Hailie’s Song. Here he does it again, only this time it’s a little more tongue-in-cheek. At its core, this is just another Kim (Eminem’s ex-wife, for the uninitiated) diss, isn’t it? But it’s so damn catchy! What I wouldn’t give for Eminem to put out a whole album’s worth of songs like this. I suppose I could do without the vomiting sound-effects that the track starts off with, but it’s worth sitting through it for one of Eminem’s most melodically pleasing tracks. Really fun to sing along to this one as long as the excessive foul language doesn’t put you off (but really, if you’re an Eminem fan, there’s nothing here that should surprise you). RATING: 8.5/10

My 1st Single: This feels like a filler track. The whole idea behind the song is that it was supposed to be the first single off the album, but Eminem’s offensive, inappropriate, and just downright lazy lyrics botched it. But it’s all just a joke—there’s no way a song this inceompetent was ever a contender for a single, let alone the lead single. It’s Encore-era Eminem by the numbers, as much of a contradiction as that seems. RATING: 3/10

Paul: Every Eminem album needs a Paul skit (and a Ken Kaniff skit, which we didn’t get on this album). This time, Paul’s not too happy about the lyrical jabs at the King of Pop. This placement of this skit on the album is pretty strange—it basically requires the listener to have already been familiar with the single Just Lose It, since that song doesn’t appear until after this skit. Also, what happened to the live show? I guess Eminem is taking this call while on an intermission? RATING: 2/3

Rain Man: The hidden gem of the album. Rain Man is a song about nothing, though Eminem touches on a wide number of subjects including Christopher Reeves, homosexuality, and once again, George Bush. It’s a stream-of-consciousness rap from one of hip hop’s most demented minds. What isn’t to love? The highlight of the song comes in verse three, where Eminem starts rapping the first verse over again only to realize he’s reading from the wrong lyric sheet (it’s intentional, of course, but it’s hilarious all the same)! RATING: 10/10

Big Weenie: Now that I’ve taken the time to do this review, I can totally understand why a large number of Eminem fans hate this album. Most of these songs are really, really stupid. But that’s also what makes this album so fun to listen to. That, and Eminem’s sing-song hooks. And Dr. Dre’s catchy beats. Eminem gets meta on this song again (he does that a lot during this album), with lyrics like this: “All right now I / I just flubbed a line / I was going to say something important but I forgot who or what it was.” Psyche! This time he admits that he did it all on purpose, bragging that he could “bust one tape without looking at no paper.” It’s that self-referential sense of humour that makes this album so fun to listen to. RATING: 5/10

Em Calls Paul: A sequel to the last skit. Eminem gives Paul a call back, only he’s got this weird robotic vocoder on his voice. It’s full of Michael Jackson puns, and that alone makes it worthwhile. But there’s also a hilarious twist: Eminem is making this call while on the toilet. Oh, and there’s foreshadowing. Foreshadowing? On an album? Yep. Eminem tells Paul that he has an idea about how he wants to end the show (remember how this album’s supposed to be a live performance?). More on that later. RATING: 2/3

Just Lose It: The actual first single from the album. Eminem has (or at least had before Recovery) a tradition of releasing a comedy song as the lead single off of each album. This song’s known for one of two things: Eminem’s ballistic scream that he performs throughout the track, or the music video, which mocks Michael Jackson and his allegedly fake nose. Apparently this is a Dr. Dre beat—I would’ve thought Eminem self produced this one. Just goes to show that the doc has a sense of humour too. Perhaps his protégé wound up rubbing off on him a little—this beat is silly and infectious in the way that only Eminem can be. RATING: 8.5/10

Ass Like That: This is another one of those really stupid songs that only works because of Eminem’s twisted sense of humour. This song is pretty much Eminem’s whole take on the big booty rap song. Only Em doesn’t just like big butts, he uh, disturbingly, likes all butts. Even Hilary Duff’s, though at least he comments on the fact that she isn’t quite old enough yet (she would’ve been around 16 at the time). And he’s not afraid (pun not intended) to tell you why he likes butts either: they “make [his] pee-pee go da-doing-doing-doing.” Anyway, this song probably gets a lot of ire because it’s the first song where Eminem uses his comedic accent, which is inspired by the puppet Triumph the Insult Dog, who he is impersonating on this track. When I get around to reviewing Relapse, you’ll see why this was the birth of a monster. RATING: 6/10

Spend Some Time: Whoa. Am I still listening to the same album? Talk about a major tonal shift. Spend Some Time is another one of this album’s standout tracks. Obie Trice, Eminem, Stat Quo, and 50 Cent all take their turn reminiscing about failed love affairs over one of Eminem’s more haunting beats. Tracks like this really highlight why this album is so great. Both Eminem and Dre bring their A-game to the production. The album is abundant with accessible melodies, and Eminem delivers them in a convincing manner that compensates for his lack of technical ability when it comes to singing (when he gets around to rapping, he of course steals the show with his legendary technique). It’s a lot easier to notice these things when the songs don’t revolve around irreverent humour. When Eminem gets serious, it’s really powerful. RATING: 9/10

Mockingbird: Speaking of which… Mockingbird. I’m not sure I can even put into words how touching this song is. Like Hailie’s Song, this is an ode to his daughter Hailie (and his niece Alaina). Eminem raps about his failures as a father and about how his life as a rap star has prevented him from having a normal family life. He also touches on Kim’s inadequacy as a mother, though he’s actually quite sensitive here, as opposed to his usual scathing criticisms of her. A sensitive, piano melody serves as the backdrop for this sentimental track. It’s hard not to tear up while listening to this one. RATING: 10/10

Crazy In Love: We get not one but TWO tracks on this album where Eminem sings instead of raps. This one isn’t as comical as Puke, because we’ve reached the serious part of the album now. Eminem reflects on his unhealthy relationships to the tune of Heart’s Crazy On You. The song’s major shortcoming is that it essentially covers the same ground as Spend Some Time, only less effectively. It’s a great tune nonetheless, really painting a vivid picture of how self-destructive these on-again, off-again relationships are. RATING: 7/10

One Shot 2 Shot: After the release of D-12 World earlier that year, it wouldn’t have been right for Eminem not to include a D-12 song on the album. This song presents a weird narrative about a gunfight breaking out in a club. We get to see how each of the members reacts to the situation. The highlight is, of course, Bizarre’s verse, where he sacrifices his wife to save his own skin. Again, this song is downright eerie to listen to given the circumstances surrounding Proof’s death (Proof, oddly enough, doesn’t appear on this track). But all that aside, this is a pretty average track as far as D-12 goes. RATING: 4/10

Final Thought: So remember that foreshadowing from earlier? It’s almost time for the payoff. But not quite yet. In this haunting skit, Eminem is completely silent as he approaches the stage for his Encore. His final thought is… absolutely nothing. RATING: 2/3

Encore: I grew up a huge 50 Cent and Eminem fan (and by extension, I had to love Dr. Dre, who supplied all of their hottest beats). So this song was like a dream come true: the Aftermath trio all together on a single track. And damn if it didn’t deliver! This song isn’t just the encore to the album, it’s the encore to the careers of the three men who shaped the sound of hip hop in the early 2000s. They get together and wow us one last time. The song’s even more potent because of how prescient it was. All three of their careers pretty much went downhill after this. Dr. Dre failed to put out his long-awaited Detox, choosing to focus on his Beats headphones instead, and wouldn’t make a musical comeback until 2015’s Compton. Eminem’s drug addiction got out of control, the result of which was the widely-panned Relapse. And then he got clean again, and he’s been incredibly dull ever since. 50 Cent managed to squeeze out one more classic album with The Massacre, but his career took a nosedive after his beef with the Game and after Kanye West basically stole the throne. Anyway, back on topic, the song ends with the long awaited finale to the fictional performance. So, how did Eminem decide to end the show? By shooting everyone in the audience before finally turning the gun on himself, that’s how. The song’s only flaw is that 50 Cent’s verse on this song is absolute trash! But I’m willing to overlook that because of how well his voice blends with Eminem’s on the hook. And of course, Dr. Dre delivers with a banging beat that revolves around some chanting and sparse piano. RATING: 10/10

Part III: The Album

Aesthetic: This album’s aesthetic is the twisted wonderland of a drug-addled madman. And while Eminem doesn’t stick with the live performance concept any longer than The Beatles did with Sgt. Pepper’s, he doesn’t really need to—thanks to the frequent sing-song hooks and the consistent production work by Dr. Dre, Luis Resto, and of course Eminem himself, the album has a very unified feel. The album eerie album cover perfectly matches the tone of the album (although the booklet that comes with the CD has some pictures in it that spoil the ending). Even the art on the CD itself matches the theme of the album (it’s made to look like a suicide note). In many ways, this was Eminem’s encore—he was never the same person after this album. Aesthetic is one of the things that a lot of people unfortunately ignore when it comes to an album, and this is an example of an album that does it all perfectly. SCORE: 4/5

Artistic Merit: Eminem’s always been more about the controversy than the art. But this album is surprisingly artistic. What with its odd production choices, its recurring concept, its humour, and its melodic content, this is actually quite the departure for Eminem. But at the same time, only he could have produced this album. I firmly believe that, if it hasn’t happened already, this album will undergo a reappraisal at some point in the future and be heralded as Eminem’s masterpiece. SCORE: 3/5

Flow: For all of the reasons listed above, this definitely is a consistent listening experience. It’s not perfect though. The album is a little too long, for one. The transition from comedic tracks to serious tracks isn’t all that smooth—it’s kind of jarring to go from Ass Like That to Spend Some Time. And a couple of the tracks (Mosh and One Shot 2 Shot, for example) make for dull moments that slow down the flow of the album. But the everything else makes for a great listening experience. SCORE: 5/10

CLOSING REMARKS: So is it about time this album underwent a re-evaluation? I think so. Eminem has always had a sick, twisted mind. The only thing that makes this album different from his previous ones is that that sickness is no longer confined to the lyrics; it’s in the music too. But if you’re the type of person who can appreciate a bit of artistic weirdness, this album’s got plenty of replay value. It is by no means the abomination that some people make it out to be.

FINAL SCORE: 66

 

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